1 April – 25 September, 2022

The Grand Canal, Ascension Day: The embarkation of the Doge of Venice for the Ceremony of the Marriage of the Adriatic
© From the Woburn Abbey Collection
Canaletto, 45.5 x 74 in. (115.5 x 194 cm), oil on canvas.

A major exhibition of twenty-four different views of Venice, all painted by Canaletto during the 1730s, opened at The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich on 1 April, 2022.

The works, on loan from Woburn Abbey, make up the most sizeable commission received by Canaletto, who was the talk of La Serenissima by 1725. According to a review of the upcoming exhibition in The Times, “the artist and agent Alessandro Marchesini was, by this time, suggesting that… collectors should try the up-and-coming Canaletto,” because unlike other landscape artists (namely Carlevarijs) Antonio Canaletto, “let the sun in” to his visual compositions.

Beyond the previously understood historical and socio/economic contexts of these painted scenes, which are masterfully executed hybrids of the ideal and the actual, The National Maritime Museum’s exhibition seeks to reconsider Canaletto’s two-dozen Woburn works in light of the present climate emergency. Their website explains that:

With canals instead of streets, Venice is defined by its relationship to the sea.

This relationship is central to the city’s allure, which has beguiled generations of travellers and artists.

However, rising sea levels brought about by climate change now threaten to destroy the way of life represented in Canaletto’s paintings.

The development of the cruise industry has also brought large and unsustainable volumes of tourists to the city, prompting a backlash from some local communities.

Canaletto’s Venice Revisited combines the Woburn paintings with drawings, prints, photographs, and other objects from Royal Museums Greenwich’s collections, bringing Canaletto’s enduring and idealised views of 18th century Venice up to date with a consideration of the social and environmental challenges that the city now faces.

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